LISTEN: State Rep. Esther Panitch speaks on the need for passage of an antisemitism bill.

Georgia State Capitol

Relatives of people taken hostage by Hamas are asking Americans to call for their release.

Sandy Feldman rushed to a bomb shelter in her home in Jerusalem on Oct. 7, 2023. She stayed there for hours worrying and trying to contact family members.

She told Georgia lawmakers she couldn’t reach her sister, whom she later learned was taken hostage by Hamas.

"My sister takes care of kids, of babies," Feldman said. "And my only hope is that she's taking care of all these babies that were kidnapped without their mothers." 

Feldman accompanied the Israeli Consulate General in Atlanta to visit lawmakers Monday at the Georgia State Capitol for a discussion about the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. 

State Rep. Esther Panitch, the only Jewish lawmaker in the statehouse, spoke with the visitors from Israel.

Panitch is renewing the push for a state definition of antisemitism following the attack on Israel and a rise in antisemitic incidents in Georgia, including flyers distributed in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, protests in front of a temple in Macon and neo-Nazi messages projected onto an overpass in Cobb County.

Panitch is asking Gov. Brian Kemp to add House Bill 30 to the upcoming special session of the General Assembly starting Nov. 29, during which lawmakers will consider redistricting and further suspension of the gasoline tax. The bill codifies a definition of antisemitism to be used in hate crime prosecutions.

"Jews need protection," Panitch said. "We are currently not protected under the hate crimes law in Georgia. We are not a race, and we're more than a religion." 

The FBI is monitoring increased threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab-American communities.